DISCLAIMER: This recap of The Orville: New Horizons episode “Electric Sheep” has spoilers. Prepare to engage quantum drive, and proceed at your peril.
Content warning: Suicide
The Orville finally returns after three torturous years away from our screens with The Orville: New Horizons. “Electric Sheep” tackles the fallout of the brutal, tragic Kaylon battle from last season. Capt. Mercer’s decision to reinstate Isaac is met with animosity from most of the crew, and understandably so. Thus, Isaac believes he’s no longer helpful and deactivates himself.
This outing mindfully addresses suicide and free will, along with human beings’ moral complexities and gray spaces. It also explores the grief process and how certain behaviors and actions inhibit healing.
While it’s a slower, more character-driven piece, it’s a vital episode. There’s less humor, as there should be, and the tone fits the serious subject matter.
Ready to delve into “Electric Sheep”? Let’s get to it.
We open with a galactic battle scene wherein Marcus (BJ Tanner) flees from danger. He finds his brother Ty (Kai Wener) hiding in a room while watching The Orville burn. Suddenly, Isaac (Mark Jackson) finds the boys. He corners them, his metal facade contorting into a terrifying, monstrous expression.
Thankfully, Marcus wakes from his nightmare. It seems he was dreaming about the Kaylon battle from last season.
Meanwhile, Lt. Cmdr. John LaMarr (J Lee) tells Isaac about the system repairs they need to make. After their conversation, Isaac heads to the mess hall. When he sits down, the crew members occupying that table leave promptly. Charly Burke (Anne Winters), the new ensign aboard The Orville, returns to the table to apologize for the group’s behavior. When it appears she might sympathize with Isaac, she regales him with a tale of loss and grief.
Amid the Kaylon battle, Charly tried to flee on an escape pod with her best friend, Amanda. Unfortunately, the pod required a manual start, meaning one had to remain behind to make sure it flew. Amanda sacrificed her life so that Charly could get away.
Charly blames Isaac for Amanda’s death and the countless brave souls lost during the fight. She disagrees with Capt. Ed Mercer’s decision to reinstate Isaac and hopes Isaac feels pain for the rest of his days. Well, he’s incapable of pain, so that’s a problem.
Later, Lt. Talla Keyali (Jessica Szohr) shows Mercer (Seth MacFarlane) and Cmdr. Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki) a gruesome display — someone scrawled “Murderer” in giant letters as a message for Isaac. Isaac informs Mercer and Grayson about the taunts he receives from the crew. Keyali vows to find the culprit. She discloses the heated conversation between Charly and Isaac, so Mercer calls Charly into his office.
Charly claims innocence regarding the graffiti but speaks freely about her feelings toward Isaac. Charly reminds Mercer that most of the crew loathes Isaac. Sure, he eventually turned on the Kaylon and helped save The Orville, but at the expense of too much bloodshed.
Meanwhile, Lt. Gordon Malloy (Scott Grimes) takes the new Pterodon for a spin. Once Gordon parks it, Charly admires the Pterodon up close. Gordon explains that it should be ready once Isaac makes the proper updates. He also confesses he agrees with her about Isaac.
Next, Dr. Claire Finn (Penny Johnson Jerald) and Ty chat with Isaac. Claire asks how Isaac feels after the Kaylon battle. Of course, Isaac reminds her that he doesn’t experience emotions like humans. Gordon tests the Pterodon via battle simulation, and Mercer gives it the Captain’s seal of approval.
Then, Claire grills Marcus, who’s responsible for the “Murderer” graffiti, while Mercer and Grayson observe. Marcus voices his disapproval of Isaac’s reinstatement, reminding the trio that he tried to kill them before saving them. Claire brings Isaac around to mend fences, but Marcus vehemently wishes death upon the Kaylon.
Later, Isaac records messages for the crew, ending it with well wishes for the Finn clan. Suddenly, he falls to the ground.
LaMarr, Keyali, Claire, Mercer and Grayson find Isaac out of commission. Claire reveals he committed suicide, leading the group to question why someone devoid of emotions would end their life. Claire believes this proves he felt more than they realized.
Yaphit (Norm Macdonald) checks Isaac’s body to see if revival is possible. Unfortunately, Isaac ensured his death was permanent. After futilely talking to Marcus about Isaac, Claire seeks companionship from Grayson, who lends an ear. Claire feels conflicted — one on hand, she loves Isaac. On the other, he did try to kill them. Grayson reminds Claire that one awful decision doesn’t negate our love for someone.
Next, Mercer delivers the eulogy at Isaac’s funeral while Marcus watches from afar. Claire finds Ty in the simulator chatting with a simulation of Isaac. She gently reminds her son that this stunts the healing process. We can’t bring someone back no matter how much we want to.
However, Claire decides to simulate a date night with Isaac, ruminating on Grayson’s advice about returning to the “happy places,” where Claire and Isaac created beautiful memories. She sits at a table and sobs. My heart!
Mercer and The Orville crew depart for Epsilon 2, where they’ll deliver Isaac’s body for scientific research. LaMarr enjoys some sexy, fun times with a Dakeeli female named Irillia (Alexis Knapp), and the pair chat about planetary customs regarding suicide. Irillia argues it’s a choice, and most folks feel they never asked to exist, so they exert control by ending their lives. LaMarr counters that choosing is akin to deciding how long to wear a beard.
Through their discussion, the lightbulb switches on for LaMarr. He discovers that Kaylon embed coding deep inside their bodies à la early computer programmers. This code might be the key to reviving Isaac. He’ll need Charly’s assistance, though, and we all know how she feels about Isaac.
Mercer implores Charly for help, but she puts her foot down. He acknowledges what she’s lost from the Kaylon fight while reminding her that she doesn’t have a monopoly on grief.
Suddenly, a Kaylon ship appears, pursuing The Orville. They engage quantum drive and dive into the corrosive atmosphere of a nearby planet. Lt. Cmdr. Bortus (Peter Macon) assists with launching torpedoes to act as a decoy, distracting the Kaylon from continuing to chase the ship. Thankfully, it works, and the Kaylon vessel vanishes. Mercer asks Charly to report to LaMarr again, and she refuses. So, he relieves her of duty.
Next, Marcus chats with Charly about Isaac. While he despises Isaac for his role in the Kaylon battle, Marcus doesn’t genuinely want him to die. Marcus begs Charly to help LaMarr bring Isaac back to life.
We see Charly and LaMarr hard at work while they revive Isaac with the embedded code. Success! Isaac returns to life. Before Charly departs, Mercer reinstates her. Charly tells Isaac that she didn’t help out for him (clearly, it was for Marcus).
Later, Isaac explains the reason why he committed suicide. “My deactivation was intended to restore maximum operational output,” he says to Claire. Isaac thought The Orville would run more smoothly without him. Claire urges him to seek her out whenever he feels this way. Talking through it is the best course of action. In this house, we love Dr. Claire Finn.
Marcus watches while Isaac works, and a smile crosses his face. He’s back.
I’m glad Isaac is back! The Orville: New Horizons knocks “Electric Sheep” out of the park in character work, acting, and handling its challenging but central themes. As usual, the visuals are breathtaking, the costuming intricate and gorgeous and the makeup is next-level. This world is utterly immersive.
Where do you think our crew will go next? What new horizons will they explore? Join me next week while I recap The Orville: New Horizons, only on Geek Girl Authority.
The Orville: New Horizons drops new episodes every Thursday on Hulu.
If you’re ever in distress or thinking of ending your life, help is always available at 800-273-8255, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Please reach out. You are loved.